Master of Science in International Business Economics
Cross-cultural Communications: A Real Challenge For Diplomats?
International networking of individual, state, corporate, NGO, cultural, and social activities, intensified by the process of globalization have strengthen the need of cross-cultural communication. It is beyond doubt that culture covers the entirety of the human‟s life. Most human activities that are related to the society‟s activities are shaped by culture (Piotrkiewicz 67-68). Every culture is determined by different social codes: customs, fashion, music, society relations, linguistic norms, etc. To be more specific, when one says “it‟s history” in Poland the words are associated with something important that determines people‟s lives. However, when one says “it‟s history” in the United States, it is perceived as something insignificant, past that has no influence on the present life (Ogonowska 12). Cross-cultural communication is an issue which frequently generates a great deal of heated debate. Nowadays, hardly a day goes by without the subject of culture being raised in most countries. However, it is highly debatable whether cross-cultural skills of a diplomat are more important than other considerations, such as his or her intelligence, knowledge, and education background, which some people consider to be of greater significance. As world is becoming every time more and more united, and globalization plays an important role, free movement of people and
workforce, one should not overlook the fact that in order to be a successful negotiator one must be able to communicate effectively within various cultures. To begin with, during the cross-cultural negotiations, diplomats represents not only the aims of their visit, but also the culture they belong to (Matsumoto, Juang 553). Effective intercultural negotiations require a diplomat to look into the variety of cultural values from other countries and compare them to their own values, which are obviously determined by their own culture. It is important as intensive contacts can lead to successful negotiations and undertaking of action. However, language and communications skills are demanded in order to guarantee that the message sent to the other party will be understood correctly, not only cognitively but also emotionally (Hofstede 436). Experienced diplomats usually need a professional savoir faire, which enables them to negotiate fruitfully on subjects they are empowered to decide by themselves. The only problem is that when a diplomat has to negotiate a really important issue, she or he is monitored by politicians, who have power but unfortunately no diplomatic savoir faire. This is due to the fact that they often decide about the domestic situations and this is the role for diplomats to explain it to foreign negotiation partners (Hofstede 436).
What is more, cross-cultural communications can be done on two spheres: verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication can be simply described as computing thoughts through words. However, as languages vary significantly a problem of untranslatability arises. More to the point, in Japanese „hai‟ means „yes‟. However, Japanese people use „hai‟ not only to confirm something, but also to express interest in the conversation. This small difference creates a lot of problems to translators and diplomats. Some of them misinterpret the word „hai‟ (Griffin 155). Another good example of culture differences is silence. Giles, Coupland and Wiemann (1992) conducted research comparing the Chinese and American opinion on talking. Americans perceived talking as something pleasant and important, and as a way of 2
controlling what goes on while Chinese were more keen on silence and they perceived quietness as a way of controlling what goes on. Moreover, Japanese people found silence as a tool to control negotiations (Smith and Bond 141). By the same token, in Finland...
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